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Top 15 Warning Signs for Cancer in Men

Whether it be because the average life expectancy of people in developed nations has reached new highs, or the fact that everything we eat, sit on and breathe is filled with chemicals, the bottom line is that most people reading this will be touched by cancer in their lifetimes. If not a form of cancer that they get themselves or the health of their significant other, cancer is everywhere and the cure for it is thought to be the next holy grail in science. So, let’s take a look at the top 15 signs that you may have cancer as a man, with the sister article to this being the top 15 signs that you may have cancer as a woman. Considering that everyone’s families are filled with both men and women, it’s important to know the warning signs to catch things early (early detection is key!).

15. Belly Pain/Depression

Because of the stigma that surrounds mental health issues, many people refuse to get help for depression because they don’t want to be labeled as crazy (or admit that they have a problem). Adding that to the fact that depression issues can make it really hard to ask for help in the first place, and anytime you mix depression and cancer, it’s bad. So, while it’s pretty rare, if you’ve suddenly developed feelings of depression mixed with pain in and around your belly/stomach, it could mean that you have pancreatic cancer. There’s a reason why cancer of the pancreas is the deadliest of cancers and part of it is that it’s really hard to notice until it’s too late, so pay attention to your mood and your belly. If you have a history of depression this can be one of the more difficult symptoms to pick up on, so the rule of thumb is to think about how similar/different this type of depression is. If it feels different from the depression you’re used to, that’s a sign that something might be bad. The same goes for the belly pain. If it’s sharp, and chronic, it’s definitely something you’ll want to get in touch with your doctor about.

14. General Pain

Beyond belly (and emotional) pain, cancer as a whole can be extremely painful. In fact, most of the powerful opioids responsible for the opioid epidemic are based on drugs that were meant for cancer patients, as cancer pain is thought to be one of the worst pains known to man. So, while most aches and pains are a part of getting older and aren’t related to cancer, pain is also a really great warning sign that things are wrong (as that’s what pain is for), so if you have a pain somewhere on your body that won’t go away or get better regardless of medication or stretching, then it’s definitely something that you’ll want to talk to your doctor about! The thing about pain as you age is that it typically comes from areas where you’ve had injuries in the past. That old knee injury from your football days, the back injury from the time you threw your back out while trying to lift weights at the gym, etc. So, if there’s pain in a place that you’re not used to and/or that is chronic and extreme, then you may want to talk to your doctor as it could be cancer or something else (fibromyalgia, etc.). 

13. Cough

If you don’t smoke, a cough isn’t something that you should really be afraid of (as it’s typically just a sign of a respiratory sickness that goes away in three to four weeks, max). However, if you’re coughing beyond that amount of time, or finding yourself short of breath or even coughing up blood, it’s obviously a bad sign (especially if you smoke). A cough is typically the most common sign of lung cancer and because lung cancer is notoriously hard to pinpoint (typically until it’s too late), early detection is key and so any changes to your ability to breathe, regardless of whether or not you smoke, is important to pay attention to and report. So, if a cough comes and isn’t accompanied by another sickness (like the flu or a cold, meaning a sore throat, runny or stuffed nose, etc.) and is something that lasts for weeks (if not months), you’ll want to see your doctor(s) and ask for an X-ray, which is really the only way to know for sure whether or not it’s lung cancer. Lung cancer is actually one of the more deadly types of cancer because it’s really hard to detect, so if you have even an inkling that your lungs feel different, go see your doctor. Better safe than sorry.

12. Fatigue

In today’s world, it’s hard to ever really feel rested as you’re constantly being texted or emailed about things at work, let alone all the stress in one’s personal life. So, being tired and stressed out is just part of life, but if there’s a “bone deep” kind of fatigue that you feel like you just can’t shake, it’s something that’s worth talking to your doctor about. Fatigue is a major warning sign of a ton of different cancers, so if you’ve taken some time off of work to catch up on sleep and it didn’t help, while it’s not a guaranteed sign, it’s definitely one of the early indicators that most people ignore because they’re already stressed enough and don’t really want to deal with an illness on top of that. Unfortunately, cancer waits for no man, or plan so if you’re yawning while reading this make an appointment with your doctor!

11. Breast Changes

One aspect of a man’s body that most men ignore their entire lives is their breast region. While thousands of men a year are diagnosed with breast cancer, many are surprised to hear that they have breast tissue in the first place. Despite the fact that it’s something that men do ignore, it is something that they pay a ton of attention to quickly should any changes manifest, as there isn’t a man on earth that isn’t terrified of developing Moobs. However, any lump in your chest can mean really bad things so while it’s embarrassing it’s best to get it checked out by a doctor, as sadly most men could be saved but end up only getting things checked out when they’re already pretty far progressed because of the embarrassment involved. There’s nothing more embarrassing than being dead.

10. Fever

A fever is always not a good sign but it’s not typically something that makes you worry for your life, at least today. While everyone reading this has had a fever at some point, most people don’t know what a fever is or why it’s happening and because it’s actually your body attempting to burn a sickness out of itself, it can be a great indicator of any number of issues. So, obviously since fevers are mostly associated with virus’ and bacteria, they should go away after a couple of days or with the assistance of medication. However, if you have a persistent fever there’s a reason that that medicine tells you to go to the hospital after X number of days and that’s because an on-going fever can mean blood cancer or leukemia. So, if you’ve had a fever for more than a week, it’s something worth the drive to the doctor for.

9. Losing Weight Without Trying

Most of us could stand to lose a pound or two and while it’d sound sort of amazing to lose weight without trying (or changing one’s diet or exercise routine), weight loss without those changes is often a sign that something is wrong in any number of systems in your body. Typically unexplained weight loss can mean problems with one’s thyroid and while that doesn’t always mean cancer it’s something that can lead to that (and a ton of other issues) so if you’ve lost 10 pounds recently without making any changes it’s something you’ll want to talk to your doctor about as it can also mean problems with your pancreas, stomach or lungs. So, if people are starting to notice that you’re looking gaunt or saying things like “You look like you need a good meal!”, it’s really time to get into your doctor’s office.

8. Mouth Changes

While everyone needs to pay attention to mouth changes, if you’re one of millions of people in the Western world that uses tobacco (smoking or chewing), or even drinks a lot of alcohol, changes to your mouth may be a harbinger of a terrible, terrible form of cancer that can literally eat away at your whole face. Sound scary? It is, and it should be, as one trip down the Google Image search that is “Mouth cancer” will make you throw your smokes into the river. So, keep an eye out for white, red, gray or yellow patches inside your mouth or on your lips. Be especially vigilant if you’re the type to get canker or cold sores, as you may mistake a cancerous lesion with one of those. While you may want to talk to your dentist about mouth problems, definitely bring them up to your doctor, as well.

7. Heartburn

There’s an entire multi-billion dollar industry surrounding people with heartburn, and as men get older and deal with the stress’ of life, it’s something that many go to bed with every night and think very little of. The key to whether or not it’s something to really worry about is if the changes you’ve made to your diet, drinking habits or stress levels don’t improve the situation. The thing about heartburn is that while it’s a symptom for stomach and/or throat cancer, it’s also something that can cause cancer (in the esophagus, for example) by spreading acid where it shouldn’t be. So, while we’ve been conditioned to really just take a few tums at night and hit the hay, it’s something that you do need to keep an eye on. The problem often times is that in today’s day and age you can really handle a lot of the symptoms with over the counter medications. So, while you may be popping a handful of tums every night before bed, you very well could be ignoring a sign of something a lot more dangerous. So, if your heartburn is something that doesn’t go away after a week or two, definitely call your doctor.

6. Trouble Swallowing

Everything in your body is connected, so it may not come as a huge surprise that many of the items on this list are intertwined. Trouble swallowing can mean any number of things, and people often don’t go a year or even six month period without having a sore throat from one thing or another. However, if your sore throat is severe enough that it’s hard for you to eat or drink and especially if it’s combined with weight loss or vomiting, it’s something that you’ll want to get checked out right away. Severe sore throats may be linked to throat or stomach cancers, so while the exams to test for stomach issues (especially) aren’t very fun, neither is dying from throat or stomach cancer. Luckily, unlike some other symptoms on this list, it’s really hard to ignore the fact that you’re having either trouble or pain when you swallow. It’s extremely noticeable because you swallow a few times a minute, typically it’s a subconscious action that you don’t even notice. So, if you do notice it… Call your doctor.

5. Changes in Lymph Nodes

Most men have heard of lymph nodes but don’t really know what they do or even where they are, so it’s important to first identify where they are before adding that to the list of places you may want to check out each month to avoid cancer. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped glands found in the neck and armpits (and groin, and other places), that are often hard to feel unless there’s something wrong. Tenderness or swelling in your neck, armpit or groin can often mean lymph node issues and when your nodes are swollen you’ll know it and it often means bad things. Generally, it just means that you’re sick and that your body’s immune system is busy but changes to your nodes can also be triggered by a few cancers, which is why your doctors feel your neck when you go in for your yearly physical. While it’s not necessarily something you need to get checked out right away (as there are multiple causes for swollen nodes), if the swelling doesn’t go away or get better in two to four weeks, consult your doctor.

4. Changes to Your Skin

People don’t realize how important skin is, as an organ in and of itself, it helps keep your body safe from pathogens while also basically being a barometer for your overall health. Unfortunately, it also is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths as unprotected exposure to the sun can lead to a number of skin cancers, with melanoma being the most feared and deadly. So, even if you don’t spend a lot of time in the sun make sure that you do a regular inventory of moles or spots as any change in size, shape or color (or appearance of new moles) is a sign that something bad is happening. Most skin cancers arive from NEW moles, ones that haven’t been with you all your life, so keep an eye out for those and for those of us with moles all over, you might want to ask for help in finding and keeping track of moles on your back, as well. The good news is that for skin cancer there’s not a lot of wait time for biopsy results, so you can avoid the whole waiting period that’s no fun for anyone, as well!

3. Blood in the Bathroom

The good thing about a healthy trip to the bathroom is that it often means that your systems are in order, from your bladder to your kidneys and your colon (or intestines in general), if any of those are out of wack it’s something you should start to notice upon trips (or frequent, returned trips) to the bathrooms. If you notice any blood at any time, that’s obviously not normal and is something that you shouldn’t just wait to get checked out. Often-times, especially if it’s a number two situation, there can be bleeding at or around the rectum, but it’s something that can mean that you have any number of cancers as well, so it’s better to get it checked out than to just ignore.

2. A Change to Your Testicles

As you’ve noticed a lot of these changes have to do with things that guys aren’t used to really talking about, or noticing. While it’s been hammered in our heads for as long as we can remember, few men actually spend time checking themselves for lumps or growths as boys are raised to be tough and to overcome pain and because of that often ignore things until it’s too late. So, you’ll want to check your testicles at least once a month and if you notice a lump, heaviness or any other general change from month to month it’s something you’ll want to get looked at right away. Unlike prostate cancers, which grow slowly, testicular cancer grows relatively quickly so it’s something you’ll want to get looked at as soon as you notice a change.

1. Problems when you Pee

It’s pretty much a given that men will have problems going number one as they get older, as the system that controls that whole deal suffers from wear and tear just like any other and it tends to fall apart as one gets up there in age. While a large prostate isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s not a good thing either, so pay attention especially to the following symptoms and check with your doctor ASAP should they pop up or persist. Those symptoms include a need to pee more often, having trouble starting or having a weak stream, a burning sensation when going or dribbling, leaking or an urgent need to go to the bathroom. While any of these could mean a myriad of other problems, it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to cancer so definitely keep an eye on your bathroom habits and hopefully you’ll be able to live a long, full life full of satisfying bathroom breaks!

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